SpaceCamp – music by John Williams

SpaceCamp - music by John WilliamsSpaceCamp is one of those movies that had a serious handicap going into the theater. And its handicap wasn’t even the inherent (but earnest) goofiness of its plotline – a bunch of kids attending the U.S. Space Camp actually winding up in space because of a shuttle malfunction caused by a robot befriended by one of the “crew” – but by the worst kind of bad timing imaginable. There was no way that the makers of SpaceCamp could’ve known that somewhere between wrapping final photography and getting the movie into theaters, the space shuttle Challenger and her crew would die a fiery death in front of millions. Furthermore, some of the actual space shuttle footage filmed for the movie included Challenger’s previous mission. The release date was continually bumped further and further into 1986, until the film was finally unleashed on a public that had been treated to endless replays of Challenger exploding for the better part of a year.

It shocked absolutely no one that the movie didn’t do very well, but film music fans were mesmerized by John Williams‘ latest score. In the years following the end of the original Star Wars trilogy (and the years between Indiana Jones’ second and third cinematic adventures), Williams seemed to be staying out of orbit and being more choosy with his assignments. For fans of Williams’ classic adventure scores, SpaceCamp was a return to form. An LP pressing of the soundtrack from SpaceCamp was in print for what seemed like the blink of an eye, and aside from a Japanese-market-only CD pressing that went for prices that would’ve paid for another space shuttle, that was it.

Intrada’s long-awaited re-release – which, again, sold out in a heartbeat – is essentially a new pressing of the Japanese CD, this time with Intrada’s trademark extensive liner notes booklet (in English, thankfully) detailing the film’s production, its rough theatrical landing, and of course the history of its elusive soundtrack. For those who had never been able to afford a copy before, Intrada’s SpaceCamp soundtrack was a gift from the heavens… at least while it was available.

The music itself is classic Williams, especially once events in the movie move into space. A more contemporary sound is evident in earthbound scenes such as “Training Montage”, but still bearing the heroic touch that Williams was no doubt tapped to add to the film’s sound. There’s even an almost-obligatory nod to the composer’s existing body of work, if a slightly predictable one (the youngest of the film’s stars, scared out of his wits, has to be stirred into action by one of the other kids urging him to “use the Force” over the radio – surely you don’t need to think too hard to imagine what music Williams quotes there).

3 out of 4As goofy and ill-timed as the film itself was, however, SpaceCamp got the kind of full-blooded adventure movie music that seems to be in short supply these days, as more modern composers lean more heavily toward the exotic. The reason Williams’ fans loved this score is that it brought back the kind of unapologetically straightforward sound he was best known for. Whatever the movie itself failed to achieve, the SpaceCamp soundtrack delivers in spades.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title (3:12)
  2. Training Montage (2:03)
  3. The Shuttle (5:06)
  4. The Computer Room (1:58)
  5. Friends Forever (2:24)
  6. In Orbit (3:16)
  7. White Sands (6:56)
  8. SpaceCamp (4:11)
  9. Viewing Daedalus (2:48)
  10. Max Breaks Loose (2:25)
  11. Andie Is Stranded (4:12)
  12. Max Finds Courage (2:23)
  13. Re-Entry (3:59)
  14. Home Again (3:30)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 48:23